Airlines Serving Iceland Urged to Not Promote Whale Products

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Photo of ad for whale meat

Washington, DC—Over 35 animal protection and conservation groups in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are calling on North American airlines that offer flights to Iceland, a popular whale-watching destination, to urge their passengers to stop buying whale products while traveling in the country.

The organizations are seeking meetings with airline executives from Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, and United to express their concerns about airlines publishing materials that condone or promotethe killing of whales in Iceland and offer suggestions on how they can help protect whales. Some of these airlines and others servicing Iceland have been known to publish advertisements and articles within in-flight magazinespromoting the consumption of whale meat.

“Airline ads and articles promoting whale meat only serve to encourage passenger curiosity about trying whale meat on vacation and make the airline complicit in that consumption,” said Sue Fisher, a marine consultant to the Animal Welfare Institute. “We need the airlines’ help to encourage passengers to watch live whales, not eat dead ones.”

As part of a concerted effort, European-based animal protection and conservation organizations have initiated a similar campaign, targeted at European airline carriers. The organizations are encouraging people traveling to Iceland to support Iceland's whale-watch industry, patronize only restaurants that do not serve or promote the consumption of whale products, and not purchase any whale products to bring home.

“We hope that airlines like Air Canada that fly tourists to Iceland will want to work with us to promote only whale-friendly businesses in Iceland,” saidAnnelise Sorg of No Whales In Captivity.

Iceland’s whale-watching industry has grown substantially since its inception in 1991, when 100 people took part in a whale-watch tour. Hundreds of thousands of the more than two million tourists visiting Iceland each year enjoy at-sea encounters with humpback, fin, minke, and other species.

Yet, back on shore, tourists are significant consumers of whale meat. Many of the 46 minke whales killed last year ended up in restaurants, as well as grocery stores, falsely marketed to tourists as traditional local dishes. Carved whale bone, baleen, and teeth are also sold as tourist souvenirs, even though most countries prohibit the import of whale products.

“Even though it is illegal to bring whale products into the US, Canada, and Mexico, tourists still do it,” said Mercedes Anzures, a legal representative with COMARINO in Mexico. “Airlines must make passengers visiting Iceland aware of these laws by including warnings in their in-flight magazine and at departure gates.”

This year’s minke whaling season, which will start imminently, coincides with Iceland’s high tourist season and will result in more whales cruelly slaughtered largely to satiate expected tourist demand. Iceland defies a global ban on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. Since Iceland resuming whaling in 2003, the Icelandic government has permitted hunters to kill more than 700 endangered fin whales (which are mainly exported to Japan) and 630 minke whales.

The organizations encourage concerned citizens to contact Air Canada (Facebook; Twitter), American Airlines (Facebook; Twitter), Delta (Facebook; Twitter), Jet Blue (Facebook; Twitter), and United (Facebook; Twitter) on social media to ask the airlines not to promote Icelandic whale meat and products.

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Media Contact:
Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, amey@awionline.org

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

About COMARINO
COMARINO, also known as Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos de México, is the first Mexican NGO devoted to the conservation of marine mammals and marine biodiversity. Since 1999, COMARINO has exposed the cruelty of the captivity of dolphinaria and denounced cases that have later become the basis for established capture bans in Mexico. COMARINO has worked on the legislative level, both at the Lower Chamber and at the Senate, on issues impacting marine life, including whales, sharks, turtles, and dolphins. For more information, visit http://www.comarino.org/.

About No Whales In Captivity
No Whales In Captivity is a registered Canadian non-profit society, founded in Vancouver in 1992 to bring attention to the plight of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) threatened by climate change, whaling, capture and captivity. Though public awareness campaigns and government lobbying efforts. No Whales In Captivity has helped enact legislation to protect cetaceans in Canada and abroad. For more information, visit www.nowhalesincaptivity.org